Tag Archives: Jenson Button

Pit Stop – Testing is close – By Lewis Brearley

It is now just one week until Formula One testing gets underway at Jerez and the hype is beginning to build.

Despite the confidence of the Lotus team that they wouldn’t be the only ones to miss the first test, they remain the only team to have announced that they won’t be there.

The effect this will have on Lotus’s preparations for the new season is as yet unknown and probably won’t be until the Australian grand prix on 16 March, but with the huge implications of the complex new regulations added to the negative stories around the finances of the team, it is generally expected to be a significant setback.

Yet, as the team and their fans will argue, setbacks during pre-season testing can be overcome. Lotus themselves lost two days of running last season when they found their new chassis was cracked and McLaren are infamous for their tendency to have poor starts to the season and often manage to overcome their problems by the time the season gets going.

Another big unknown is the driver situation at Caterham, who haven’t yet announced their partnering. Rumours gathered pace this week that one will be Kamui Kobayashi, the popular and exciting talent who has been out of the sport for a year.

When taken amid the current furore over the prevalence of pay drivers, if Caterham does decide to sign Kobayashi, it will be a real positive for the sport and certainly should give Paul di Resta confidence that it is possible to return to Formula One after being dropped.

His team mate is likely to be the young Marcus Ericsson, who has shown inconsistent flashes of speed in four seasons in GP2. He was often seen around the Caterham garage last season which backs up the rumours that he will be driving for them next year.

Regardless of who gets signed, the fact that Caterham haven’t yet announced their drivers raises eyebrows. With the competition to get seats being so high, perhaps they are just using the luxury of holding all the cards, and using all the time to make sure they get the best deal they possibly can.

Interesting things are also happening at McLaren. While they may have their driver line up of Jenson Button and the promising Kevin Magnussen sealed, they executive structure is set for a re shuffle.

Ron Dennis wrested back the controls of the team from his former trusted protégé, Martin Whitmarsh after becoming increasingly disillusioned with the team’s recent lack of success.

In his statement Dennis said to prepare for “changes to be made” and with Honda teaming up with McLaren next year, former Honda team principal and recently retired Ross Brawn is a possible new team principal.

McLaren really need a strong year, and next week at Jerez, Button will find out whether he has the car to be able to bid for his second world championship.

The teams are now almost ready but as of now it’s all unknowns.

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Pit Stop – Mclaren to decide on drivers – By Lewis Brearley

The news that McLaren hasn’t yet confirmed Jenson Button as one of its drivers for next season surprised most fans. After all, here is a man who was performed consistently very well for the team for the past three seasons, taking eight victories and finishing second in the 2011 championship. Here is a very experienced and technically strong driver, vital qualities for the big rule changes next season. And here is a public relations and advertising dream; good looking, gregarious and cheery.

So the question stands, why have McLaren not offered him a contract extension? As the public are not privy to inside McLaren management discussions, it’s impossible to know for sure; but it is possible to have a few informed guesses.

The first reason is, or more accurately was, Kimi Raikkonen. McLaren Team Principal, Martin Whitmarsh is known to be a huge fan of the Finn and talks were rumoured to have taken place between the two parties. However, now that Raikkonen has signed for Ferrari instead, and Button has still not been signed up, it’s clear there must be a different answer to the question.

A second possible answer, which appears outlandish upon first thought, involves McLaren’s junior drivers. Rivals Red Bull have promoted one of their juniors, Daniel Ricciardo into their team for next season and McLaren have made a few noises in the press recently about their juniors, Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne – currently first and second in the Renault World Series.

The two young drivers are highly rated by McLaren and the team has been making determined efforts to get one of them, namely the more experienced Magnussen, a seat in Formula One.

Talks took place with Force India, who have benefited of late from a large technical partnership and windtunnel usage agreement with McLaren, and Magnussen was booked to be Force India’s driver at the Silverstone Young Driver Test.

However, for unpublicised reasons Force India ditched Magnussen in favour of James Calado. Since this announcement, McLaren have made further media comments about finding a seat for Magnussen and are known to be working on a strong sponsorship package for the Dane.

The issue is complicated by the current state of Formula One finances. Small teams are picking drivers on the money they bring to the team, such as Pastor Maldonado and his huge PDVSA sponsorship money. It is indeed a sad reflection on the sport, that it is not enough now for a driver to get a seat on his talent alone.

Yet it is not the teams’ fault that this is the situation. Teams need to survive and to survive they need the money. It is a short term view, but it is the only one the teams can choose.

It would surely be easier for McLaren, if Magnussen’s talent is as brilliant as the team claim, which now can be roughly judged on the team simulator, to give him a seat at the big team itself.

Sure, it sounds absurd. Why would a hugely respected team switch world champion Button for a rookie when its other driver is the inexperienced and often criticised Sergio Perez.

But McLaren are in a state of change. A technical partnership with Honda starts in 2015 by which time Button will be 35 years old and new title sponsors are being signed up.

A gamble on Magnussen wouldn’t be the safe thing to do. But think of the last time McLaren signed a rookie and the theory isn’t as absurd as it may first appear.

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Pit Stop – Racers Want To Race – By Lewis Brearley

How you reacted to the late-race radio exchange between Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes engineer is a clear indicator of what you want and love about Formula One racing.

When Lewis’s engineer, responding to the looming threat of a rapidly closing Fernando Alonso, radioed with the rather oblique: “Your rear traction metrics are under 2000,” Lewis replied simply: “just let me drive man.”

The get-out-there-and-drive-the-wheels-off attitude doesn’t tend to compliment the technical, cerebral very well. Indeed, this was the issue at the very core of the Senna versus Prost battle years ago and we all know how destructive that became.

Yet in modern Formula One the most obvious example of this culture clash is with Lewis Hamilton, who puts Senna as his hero. The engineer simply meant that there was plenty of life left in his driver’s tyres and was giving him a coded message to push to fend off Alonso. Was there really such a need to make such a command so complex?

In a sport so technical, where tenths of a second can separate glorious victory from despairing loss, any advantage and even ways of working are jealously guarded.

While a huge frustration to the Hamilton-ites, it surely makes sound sense for the more technical minded fans. Why spend millions on aerodynamic parts, engine software developments and brake cooling devices to blow it with a rash communication?

The thing which makes F1 so different and special among sports is the fact that it can be enjoyed in such disparate ways, and every fan across the spectrum can love it just as much.

After all, whether you were shouting in unison with Lewis and his plea to just “get on with the driving”, or instead you were in harmony with his engineer in thinking that there was nothing more vital to the race than Lewis’s rear tyre degradation matrix, your love of Formula One isn’t any less.

However, someone who just may be falling out of love with F1 is Jenson Button. Just as it looked that his team was finding its way out of the mire it found itself in at the start of 2013, his torrid season reached a new nadir. For the first time since the dark days of 2009 the team finished with both its cars outside the points.

This was supposed to be Button’s year in which he finally had a big team to lead, to mould around himself and to challenge for a second championship.

But with the winding down of the Mercedes technical partnership next year and the loss of the technical director Paddy Lowe, there doesn’t seem to be any light visible at the end of the tunnel yet.

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Pit Stop – Bahrain Grand Prix – By Lewis Brearley

Watching the Bahrain grand prix it was hard not to imagine being in the shoes of Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren team principal.

As his two drivers, the experienced Jenson Button and his new protégé Sergio Perez aggressively raced each other and banged wheels, I was on edge. Whitmarsh, as the man responsible for McLaren’s success must have been near cardiac arrest.
After experiencing this sensation and reflecting upon it, it is hard not to feel confused about why there was no communication from him to either of his drivers.

Perez was getting more success with looking after his rear tyres and was therefore faster than Button at the later end of their respective stints. Button was therefore fighting a battle he could not realistically win.

With so much on the line, the race having seen the best performance from McLaren so far this season, surely it was a massive risk not to order Button to let Perez past or, if McLaren are so set on not using team orders under any circumstances, at least inform Button of the likely futility of battling his team mate, to allow him to make his own informed decision.

Certainly it is hard not to believe that with the same situation at any of the other top teams, the team principal would not be heard over the team radio with some kind of instruction.

Brawn at Mercedes, Domenicali at Ferrari and Horner at Red Bull, having now learnt his lesson would have all taken to the radio airwaves.

McLaren left Bahrain with just three points less than Mercedes but if you analyse the finishing positions it becomes clear that this wasn’t the maximum return for their efforts.

The decision not to tell Button about the risks of being so aggressive with Perez arguably exacerbated his tyre wear issues and led to a fourth pit-stop being made which dropped Button right down from sixth to tenth.

Another team to make operational mistakes in Bahrain was Ferrari. After the DRS system on Alonso’s car failed early in the race it was obvious that it would be a risk to engage the device again. Yet Ferrari told Alonso that all would be fine and this decision cost Alonso any chance of getting the podium which had looked likely.

He instead finished eighth and with the competition looking so strong, who knows how costly this could be.
After four races the season looks to have distilled into a battle between the raw pace and aerodynamic superiority of the Red Bull versus the more efficient tyre use and balance of the Lotus. In fact the podium at Bahrain was the same as it was last year.

However that doesn’t mean we can discount Ferrari, Mercedes or even McLaren, all three of these teams having shown pace at different points of the four races now passed.
Bahrain certainly showed who must be classed as the favourite to succeed though. He can lead from the front, he can overtake, he can keep his head and he’s got a terrific machine under him: Vettel.

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Pit Stop – Jenson Button’s Experience – By Lewis Brearley

Now that Michael Schumacher has retired from Formula One, the most experienced driver on the whole grid is Jenson Button.

With 230 entries across 13 seasons of top-level racing, Button is one of the most pre-eminent figures in 21st century motorsport.

Button is now a driver who legends admire. British five-time grand prix winner John Watson is particularly a huge fan, saying: “Jenson Button is more like an artist. His car is a palette and he uses it to paint a lovely picture of a driving style that is rhythmic, fluid, a joy to watch.”

Yet it was only five years ago, in 2008, that the “Frome flyer” was regarded as a has-been, a playboy who had managed to let his phenomenal talent ebb away. Indeed, Button’s 2008 season was shockingly bad with just one points finish. This, following an equally bad 2007 season, looked to be the sad end to what had at first looked like being a promising career.

It was painful to observe a guy proclaimed to be the next big British racing star resigned to plodding around in 17th place in a car painted to look like the Earth.

What no-one knew however, was that the following season would provide one of the greatest fairytales in the history of the sport and ignite the career of a hugely talented driver.

To realise the full impact of that fairytale, it’s worth looking back to the early days of the century.

In 2000, Button debuted at the age of just 20 as Ralf Schumacher’s promising new team mate at BMW-Williams. Despite being outperformed by the younger Schumi, Button did shine with a couple of great performances such as a fourth place at Hockenheim.

Button spent the next two seasons at Benetton-Renault and although 2001 yielded an atrociously disappointing two point haul, 2002 saw him outperform the talented Italian, Jarno Trulli.

It was the team he moved to the following year where Button would spend a rollercoaster seven years. As their lead driver he easily got the upper hand on former world champion Jacques Villeneuve and raised his game even further for 2004, where he shone by taking a pole position and ten podiums, finishing best of the rest behind the two dominant Ferraris.

From here though, Button’s career entered a prolonged four year dip with just one glorious victory at the 2006 Hungarian grand prix acting as a beacon of hope for anyone who still believed that Button could become a regularly grand prix winner.

In 2008, Button’s year long pain in his “Earth car” looked to have been alleviated in an unpleasant way when Honda pulled all their funding from the team. With just two weeks until the 2009 season, Button looked to be without a seat. Yet two months later he had just won F1’s blue riband event, the Monaco grand prix, his fifth victory of a championship-winning season.

Button earned some respect in winning the 2009 world championship, but critics still remained, people who proclaimed him lucky; below the pantheon of the great drivers.

They didn’t know however, that Button’s best driving was still to come. The move to McLaren for 2010 was seen by most observers as a mistake. Only a foolish man would enter “Team Hamilton” after the highly talented Heikki Kovalainen had spent two seasons struggling in what was definitely a Hamilton-orientated outfit.

Yet three years on, Hamilton has left after becoming an ever more disgruntled and insular figure, while Button remains, after endearing himself to the Woking team.

He now stands with 15 wins in the record books, as team leader for the best resourced team in F1 who look to have arrived for 2013 with the best car in the paddock.

Jenson Button – double world champion? Sounds more than plausible to me.

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Pit Stop – Top Ten Drivers in this Era – By Lewis Brearley

After 15 seasons of watching Formula One, there’s been countless memorable moments and races served up by some of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport.

Here’s my countdown of the top ten in the last 15 seasons.

10) Rubens Barrichello

Formula One’s most experienced driver spent half the decade as Michael Schumacher’s contractual number two.

He rarely got close to Schumacher and whenever he did was forced to concede his position to his team-mate, most notably at the infamous 2002 Austrian GP where the “switch” happened after the final corner.

However, the Brazilian could sometimes beat the great Schumacher and did the same when he partnered Jenson Button at Brawn, taking two wins in the 2009 season.

9) Mark Webber

Like Barrichello, Webber is most famous for being a number two to a German multiple world champion. But just like Barrichello, is able to beat the guy on his day.

Yet, Webber is more than that; he was a badly timed pitstop from winning the 2010 world championship and early in his career outperformed his midfield Jaguar regularly, especially in qualifying – a front row start at Hungary being the highlight.

8) Juan Pablo Montoya

The Colombian lasted less than six seasons in F1, yet made an indelible mark.

He started by overtaking Schumacher at only his third race and continued to fight him for the rest of his career. The man was fast, simple as that; five poles in a row in 2002 and a mega one minute victory with pole position and fastest lap at the 2003 German grand prix, testify to that.

It was his feisty, rebellious personality which made him leave the sport, mid-way through 2006.

7) Jenson Button

In 2008 Button was yesterday’s news, Lewis Hamilton was the new prodigy on his way to a world championship.

Button showed great promise in his first couple of seasons but was soon stuck in the quagmire of Honda F1.

Indeed, it was when his team became Brawn that Button exploded to front running status. However, it is since that championship that he has cemented his name as an all-time great rather a lucky world champion with some great drives for McLaren.

6) Lewis Hamilton

On pure speed, Hamilton probably is level with only Senna and Schumacher. However, grand prix driving involves so much more than that.

He seems to let his emotions affect his driving and just as importantly doesn’t take much interest in leading his team through a season.

That being said in 2012 he improved his consistency and with a new start at Mercedes next year, has the chance to impose himself as a leader of men.

5) Mika Hakkinen

The driver Schumacher claimed was his toughest rival, beat the German to two successive world championships before the turn of the century.

The best sign of the speed of the flying Finn is arguably found in the 1999 season when he set 11 pole positions in the first 13 races.

Oh, and the legendary overtake of Schumacher around a backmarker at Spa the same year.

4) Sebastian Vettel

Winning three world championships while at the same age Schumacher had not won any is quite a scary thought for statisticians. Indeed, every record is in Vettel’s sights and he is quite capable of taking them.

The German is improving every year, has already won 26 races and had 36 pole positions – behind only Senna and Schumacher – and has the might of the Red Bull operation headed by the genius Adrian Newey.
And as Monza 2011 proved, the boy can overtake.

3) Kimi Raikkonen

He says he knows what he’s doing and all the evidence supports that. He shook up F1 when he arrived at Sauber after just 23 career races and scored a point. A move to McLaren proved he could beat Coulthard with ease and the only thing that stopped him taking the 2003 championship was his McLaren’s dreadful reliability.

Chosen as Ferrari’s next man, he didn’t fit the latin atmosphere and was soon pushed out. Returned this year and proved he is indeed one of the greatest of the era.

2) Fernando Alonso

Second in wins in the era to only Schumacher, the Spaniard defeated the German in a titanic tussle for the 2006 title. This made him a double world champion but his career was about to dip.

Controversy at McLaren made him public enemy number one in Britain and he was forced into two seasons in a poor Renault.

However, just like the man he beat in 2006, his career looks set to be defined at Ferrari, where his leadership abilities and magnificent racecraft has earned him not only Italy’s, but the world’s respect.

1) Michael Schumacher

Whether he’s the greatest of all time can never be properly answered. It is much more certain that he is the greatest of this era, and not just because of his epic records.

Time and again, Schumacher overcame adversity with his true grit to win when he shouldn’t have done. He proved that he was better than all of the era’s great drivers, and at least on a par with Alonso, while ten years his senior.

It was the Schumacher era and he towered above it in a way never seen before or since.

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